I woke up to the sounds of slamming doors and laughter. Two intoxicated girls were hugging each other and bidding giddy goodbyes to their fellow partiers. I blinked blurry-eyed at my phone: it was 2:30am. I craved the final twenty minutes of sleep before the alarm was set to go off. But as the girls stumbled around our hostel room preparing for bed, I gave up, threw off my sheet and started getting ready for the day’s adventure. What’s a mere twenty minutes more of sack time when you’ve only had a total of three hours anyway?
Many of life’s best experiences don’t wait around for late risers. In Maui, I’d often found myself behind the wheel of my rental car long before sunrise. But this morning I was still asking myself “Is this worth it?” as I grabbed my warm clothes and a blanket, popped open an ice coffee and started loading the car. And would my hostel mates be up on time for our planned departure?
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park is open 24/7 and offers a smorgasbord of adventures: you can take a hike lasting anywhere from a couple of hours to several days, stargaze to your heart’s content, brave the curving access road on a bike, do a little camping or, like me, experience the sunrise.
Haleakala means “House of the Sun.” The Hawaiians recognize the mountain as a sacred site. It was here, their legends recount, that the volcano goddess Pele battled her sister on the crater floor and that the demigod Maui captured the sun, releasing it only once the sun had agreed to slow its daily trip across the sky.
We ascended Hwy #378, with darkness concealing all 33 of the switchbacks on the route, along with the numerous climate zones we were passing through. Once we’d parked, my hostel mate Maggie headed straight up to the summit lookout; my other hostel buddy Matt and I opted to sneak in a extra few minutes of sleep. After the alarm went off for the second time, Matt decided he needed even more zzzs. I was already shivering, but I braved the cold air and headed up. At the lookout shelter, I couldn’t find Maggie, so I headed outside and found a spot between the many couples cuddling together. Facing east, I snuggled into the blanket and took in the stars. With no light pollution to mar them, they shone with an unreal brilliance that made me take a deep breath and smile.
Long before it was in direct view above the crater, the sun made its approach known, slowly brightening the sky from black to dark blue and backlighting the clouds with every colour from pale purple to intense red. The view was so incredible that I let the camera slip out of my numb hands and simply savoured the feelings of rawness, intensity and connection.
I was briefly tempted by the nearby shelter. But something about the openness kept me rooted outside. How often www.onlinepharmacytabs.com would I have the chance to sit above the clouds and watch the sunrise from an elevation of over 10,000 feet? It didn’t seem right to put even a pane of glass between myself and the fullness of the experience. The red soil and cliffs made it feel as though I were watching sunrise from the surface of Mars.
Eventually, I found Maggie and Matt struggling to stay warm in the shelter. As much as I wanted to stay, soak in the Vitamin D and hike around, we all really needed to thaw out. As the car’s heater bathed us in warm air, exhaustion from the late night and early wake-up caught up with me. I needed breakfast and hot coffee, stat!
Free-spirited Maggie spotted a fellow tourist in a red sports car and decided to go off exploring with him. We waved goodbye and smiled. Before we started down the mountain, I stopped off at the visitor’s centre for a quick washroom break, a different view and a fast photo opp. Later, with my passenger dozing in the shotgun seat, I quietly pulled off at a few more viewpoints. These stops meant we were playing leapfrog with the bikers who were working their own way down the winding road.
Vacations should be a balance of down time and adventure. I’ve never been the type of sleep in and miss out on the activities I want to experience. We are given a choice to make every day our own, and being on vacation doesn’t stop us from choosing whether we wait for life to come to us or we go after it. I love chasing after adventure and mind-blowing experiences. It’s memories like these that I cherish and keep with me. What do you chase after?
Tips for Haleakala:
If you are heading up to Haleakal?, bring lots of layers. You may be at tropical latitudes, but you won’t be at tropical altitudes. Despite everyone’s warnings, I underestimated the piercing cold and wind, and shivered in my few layers and single blanket. So pack multiple layers, a hat, leggings, gloves, and a warm jacket and borrow as many blankets as possible from your accommodation.
Leave early. We left Lahaina at 3am for a December sunrise, which gave us enough time, but how much time you’ll need depends on the day and how many people are there. We were lucky and got parking at in the top lot, where there is only enough room for about forty cars. By the time my twenty-minute nap in the car was done, this lot was full and people were being sent to the lower one. So allow for the possibility of having to hike a bit further to the summit.
To maximize your appreciation and presence in the moment, get to bed early the night before. Remember to bring coffee, snacks, water and your sense of adventure.